Posted by: Phil Anderson | July 19, 2015

Tales of Theran #2 – Part One

This week I’m introducing the first part of another short story set in the Kingdom of Theran. The first in my series of “Tales of Theran” was called “Forbidden” and you can read it here. I haven’t settled on a title for this one, so make suggestions or leave comments below. Enjoy!

Neither of them could remember exactly when or precisely how the feud started, and they didn’t care. It was all just an excuse to fight. Their most recent inducement was a relatively fertile field amid the rocky landscape of fruitless clay soil, though they weren’t interested in farming, only in indulging their selfish depravity.

Edew was fit and athletic with a confident, even arrogant face. His eyebrows, mustache, and short goatee were black and thick, but his scalp was bald, revealing numerous scratches and scars that came from either brawling or a dull shaving blade.

Azome was just as proud and selfish but opposite in appearance, thin and taller than he seemed because he tended to slouch. His hair and sparse beard were long and stringy.

“Field Azome belongs to me,” he growled, glaring at his rival through the greasy black hair that hung over his eyes. He brandished a tarnished dagger with a bent blade. “You and your brainless buffoons had better get off my land.”

“It’s only yours if you can hold onto it,” jeered the challenger. “By the end of the day it will be known as Field Edew.” He was unarmed except for the club-like fists he wielded.

Both men had several friends—or at least followers—backing them up and the two contingents were at a stand-off, both sides waiting for the other to make the first move. Then a rumble of thunder rolled overhead and all eyes turned upward toward the gathering gray clouds.

Azome took advantage of the distraction and lunged at his opponent with his knife. Edew saw the attack and reacted, deflecting the blade to one side and knocking Azome off balance. Then everyone joined the melee, hitting, shoving, and kicking anyone within reach.

The fight lasted long enough to generate blood and bruises. Then it ended almost as quickly as it began. A stranger had crested the hill surrounding the fertile vale and was descending toward them. He was riding a horse.

Horses were rare in this barren land. It was too hard to grow enough food for one. This mare was well-fed and well-groomed, and its harness and saddle were of fine leather. Its rider was also handsomely dressed. Edew and Azome forgot their quarrel and hurried over to meet the stranger.

“Good afternoon, Sir,” Azome called out as they approached. “You seem lost.”

“Is there some way we can help you?” Edew offered.

The stranger didn’t answer right away. He raised his chin as if aiming his pointed beard at them. He looked down his long, sharp nose. His piercing eyes seemed to notice everything. “A storm is coming,” he announced, “and I require a place to stay.”

“I would be happy to rent out some rooms at Fortress Edew,” the bald man offered.

“And be robbed in your sleep?” Azome asked incredulously, shaking his head. “Sir, you’d fare better by coming home with me to my compound. You’ll sleep soundly there.”

“You may never wake up.” Edew warned. “Don’t listen to Azome, the aspiring assassin.”

“Aspiring assassin?” Azome growled. “You arrogant mule!” He launched himself at Edew, tackling him to the dirt. The two tussled violently while their followers stood and watched.

The nobleman grimaced. “Don’t bother,” he said. “I’ll find another place to weather the storm.” The false politeness in his words failed to disguise the contempt in his voice. He wheeled his horse and trotted out of the valley, leaving Edew and Azome to each blame the other for their lost opportunity.

*****

The horse walked along a narrow footpath. There were no roads in this barren land. In fact, it was surprising that any people lived here, although in retrospect it only made sense that brigands and outcasts from the regular districts would find refuge in this abandoned corner of the kingdom with no overlord or other interference from the capital.

The gray clouds overhead rumbled again. The traveler shivered, not relishing the thought of getting caught in a downpour without so much as a tree for shelter. The rocky hills all around him didn’t offer much hope either, unless he could find a shallow cave to huddle in.

Then, as the first fat drops of rain began to spot the ground, he found himself at the edge of a serene dale. A stream trickled through the middle and near its banks stood a hodgepodge of buildings clustered together.

The mare trotted forward on her own, eager to get out of the weather. Her rider gave her free rein and, as they approached, he realized that the collection of shanties and sheds were actually all connected into one ungainly structure. There was a single door where he dismounted and began to knock.

*****

Marin the brick-maker glanced up at the sky as drops of rain began to sprinkle down. “Hurry, Kotta,” he said to his daughter. “We’re almost there.”

He was carrying two heavy buckets of orangey clay, so Kotta couldn’t really hurry without leaving him behind. But he was built like a boulder, sturdy with big, muscular arms, so they weren’t moving too slowly.

Their destination came into sight and Marin paused. There was a horse standing near the door where an unfamiliar man was knocking. The widower had learned by tragic experience to be wary of people, but the raindrops were bigger and more steady, and Kotta was scurrying toward home, so Marin followed.

By the time he caught up, Kotta had already engaged the stranger. “I’m on a long journey,” he was explaining, “and I require shelter from the rain. When the storm passes I’ll be on my way.”

The man seemed imperious and austere, but not threatening, especially dripping wet. Marin hesitated, but there was nothing else to do so he pushed the heavy door open with his broad shoulder and they went inside.

The vestibule was sheltered but empty with another large door leading further in. Marin’s hands were full, so Kotta latched the exterior door. Then she went to the inner door and pounded with her fist. “Bovin, we’re home! Let us in! Bett, are you there?”

A slit of a window opened in the door and two eyes peered out at them. “Who’s the stranger?” a voice squeaked.

“Don’t be impertinent, you little scamp,” Kotta laughed. “He’s traveler in need of shelter. Now let us in.”

To be continued.

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Responses

  1. […] part of another “Tales of Theran” short story. You can (and should) read part one here and you can also read Forbidden, the first story in the […]

  2. […] Over the past few weeks I posted a short story in three parts. If you missed it you can find Part One here. […]


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